The inspiration to foster began many years ago for Lisa. She was working as a primary school teacher in an area of high deprivation. It was a job she loved but she often felt that she’d like to be able to do more to support the most vulnerable children. Her partner at the time was a social worker in child protection and some of the cases he was involved with – while Lisa only heard the briefest details – were heart-breaking.
After the couple separated, Lisa made the decision to apply to become a foster carer in 2012. She chose Fostering Solutions in Bolton. Lisa explained: “I rang round a few different agencies. I found Fostering Solutions helpful, positive but also honest about the realities of fostering. They also offered really good training.”
Initially, Lisa planned to combine fostering with working as a supply teacher however one of the foster children she had early on had problems attending school so she decided to focus solely on fostering. Since then, she had worked for brief periods as a High Level Teaching Assistant but always prioritises the needs of her foster children above the demands of teaching.
Lisa finds that having a background in teaching can sometimes give her an advantage when it comes to fostering. She said:
With the second foster child I had – a young boy – the school he attended hadn’t picked up on the fact that he was dyslexic. At that time, he couldn’t read and would exhibit some challenging behaviours at school. He was frequently excluded. He had to change schools a couple of times, once due to his behaviours and once because we moved house. Because I’d taught for seven years prior to becoming a foster carer I had an awareness of conditions like dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism and supported him with home schooling. When he returned to mainstream education, I was able to liaise with his school and get him a diagnosis. Once he received a diagnosis of dyslexia, he was able to get some proper support and he became much more settled, responding well to positive praise and structure. His confidence and self-belief grew. He’s 22 now and has his own flat and a job and a girlfriend.
The boy came to Lisa initially for one night as an emergency placement but, in the end, he was with her for seven years and was even an usher at her wedding. Lisa said:
He’s a lovely lad who’s overcome so much in his life, yet never complains. One of the highlights for me was seeing him start to come out of himself and develop some self-confidence. He’s got a great sense of humour. We’re still in touch and it’s good to see him doing so well. He’s great with the foster children I’ve got now – a little boy – and gives him piggyback rides. He gets on really well with our birth son, too.
Lisa took some time out of fostering after her son was born to spend time with him. Shortly afterwards, Covid struck and, as a chronic asthmatic, she needed to shield. Then her father became terminally ill and died, followed by both of her dogs. It was a difficult time in her life but in April 2022, she began fostering again.
Her latest foster child is a three-year-old boy who has now been with them for a year. Lisa said:
When he arrived, he was often upset and was up constantly in the night. Now he’s giggly and affectionate and loves to dance and play games. He and my son are like brothers. It is lovely to see foster children blossom and become themselves. I learn so much from them.
While there are many rewarding aspects of fostering, Lisa acknowledges that it can be incredibly challenging:
It takes a lot out of you. When he first arrived, our current foster child could be up 10 times a night. I was constantly on the go. It can take a toll on your relationships. And sometimes it’s hard when the courts make decisions that you don’t necessarily agree with. You need a good support network around you. My husband is amazing, but he works full-time so my Mum is the one who has the children for me when I need a break. My birth son and foster child go to hers once a week. It’s brought a lot to her life too.
Lisa also praises the support she receives from Fostering Solutions:
My supervising social worker is fantastic and I also go to support groups where I can chat to other foster carers and get things off my chest. There is an out of hours support service, which I’ve needed to use a couple of times. When my dad died the agency staff were lovely.
Lisa says fostering is “not easy but definitely worth it”. Her advice to novice foster carers is:
Don’t be afraid to say no. It can be hard when you get a call from referrals but listen to your gut. The agency would rather you said no if it doesn’t feel right as there’s less chance of the placement breaking down. Fostering is full of challenges. One of the greatest is saying goodbye to the children when they go. But there are lots of opportunities to make lovely memories. When you foster, it’s a different kind of family but it is fantastic.
You might like to try our Can I Foster? tool, which answers common questions about suitability to foster, based on a personalised Q and A style format. If you’re ready to chat with a real person, contact your local team.